Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli)
Recipe from: Cooks Illustrated — April 2003 Issue

Serves: 8-10

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 ounces bacon, chopped fine (I like using a dry-cured hickory-smoked bacon)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 1 celery rib (about 2/3 cup)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 anchovy fillets, minced to paste (about 1 teaspoon anchovy paste)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) petite diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, about 5 inches by 2 inches
  • 2 cans (15 ½ oz. each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (I use Progresso)
  • 3 ½ cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 8 ounces small pasta shape (I find that Ditalini or Orzo work nicely in this soup)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves; Ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering, but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and anchovy paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add cheese rind and beans, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, 10 minutes.

Add chicken broth, 2 ½ cups water, 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender; about 10 minutes (refer to package instructions to better estimate pasta cooking time).

Discard cheese rind. Off heat, stir in 3 tablespoons fresh parsley; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls; drizzle each serving with olive oil and sprinkle with a potion of remaining parsley. Serve immediately, passing grated Parmesan cheese separately. Enjoy!

Special Note about making the soup before it is needed: This savory soup does not hold up well because the pasta absorbs the liquid, becomes mushy, and leaves the soup dry. The soup can, however, be made in two stages. Once the beans are simmered with the tomatoes, before the broth and water are added, the mixture can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days. When ready to complete the soup, discard the Parmesan rind (otherwise it will become stringy), add the liquid, bring the soup to a boil, and proceed with the recipe.